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Farm owner challenges moratorium

(Jed Carlson/jcarlson@superiortelegram.com) A deer stands on County Road Y near Gordon on Sunday, Oct. 7.

Douglas County's Zoning Committee is advancing an ordinance to place a one-year moratorium on the transport of live deer or other cervids into the county.

During the moratorium, a study group will consider regulations intended to inhibit the spread of chronic wasting disease to protect the environment and public health and safety. The group would be charged with determining if there are enforceable zoning changes for captive animals that could help stop the spread of the disease.

At least one deer farmer in Douglas County says the move will hurt existing family-owned farms and won't solve the problem because hunters are still allowed to move carcasses unrestricted, posing a bigger threat of spreading the disease than deer farms.

While the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources proposed an emergency rule to restrict transport of deer carcasses out of CWD-affected counties, legislators earlier this month rejected the restriction.

Chronic wasting disease is a contagious neurological disease affecting deer, elk and moose. It causes a characteristic spongy degeneration of the brains of infected animals resulting in emaciation, abnormal behavior, loss of bodily functions and death.

Classified as a prion disease, epidemiologic investigations have shown the risk of CWD transmission to humans is low, but the number of studies has been limited, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention.

"I would like to voice my concerns on this moratorium involving the cervid transportation," said Cade Musch of Long Lake Whitetails in South Range.

He said transporting deer is not a leading cause of spreading the disease.

Exactly how CWD is transmitted is not known, but the infectious agent may be passed in feces, urine of saliva, according to the Chronic Wasting Disease Alliance.

"They just enacted the double-fencing law so we're going to be transporting deer from a double-fenced facility to another double-fenced facility, taking out a lot of risk of spreading the disease," Musch said. "The main concern is the nose-to-nose contact through a fence. With a double fence there, that is virtually gone."

Musch said deer hunters, like himself, pose a significantly bigger threat because they are allowed to transport carcasses unrestricted. He said moving the carcasses of CWD-infected deer poses 100 to 1,000 times the threat of spreading the disease than saliva would in nose-to-nose contact.

"This would really hurt — there's a couple of deer farms and a couple hunting preserves in Douglas County," Musch said. "This could be detrimental not to be able to bring in new breeding stock, and these are family-owned farms and businesses that would really be hurt by this."

Musch said when live deer are transported, they are moved from tested facilities, go through veterinarian inspection and every animal has a federal identifying tracking number.

After hearing from Musch, the Zoning Committee approved sending an ordinance forward for a public hearing Nov. 6. The committee meets at 9 a.m. in Room 201 of the Government Center.